At The End of The Decade All Musicians Need are Grand Visions

Radiohead Band of the Decade
Radiohead: Kid A – Album of The Decade

In the fractured music business, everyone is searching for the magic bullet. After roughly fifteen years of online access, musicians and labels still struggle with the amorphous, asymmetrical world of the web. Because they haven’t taken time to research how music fans want to receive their music, they remain puzzled by just how much doesn’t work on the web. Having a MySpace page is not a digital strategy. The think tank needs to be drained and filled with new thinkers. The future of music distribution will be determined by music fans not by the latest web start up with yet another “solution” that looks and smells like the old “solutions” – I point my finger at you Rdio, you Mog.

It requires a huge leap of faith to break the stranglehold of the curse of knowledge. It requires new thinking to get beyond the CD. What’s not required are predictions for music in 2010. There is nothing new in that post, just a repurposing of old ideas.

Except for iTunes, in the last decade, it seemed that every new music model was simply a replica of what had gone before. Here’s a partial list – Rhapsody, EMusic, Mog, Rdio, Spotify if you want a subscription plan, or just a list of online music databases if you’d prefer. Yet really all you need is Google Music Search, where you can stream music from the search results page.

These services are all built on the backs of musicians and the deal they made with their labels to allow the aggregation of their music into these services. The end result is a shrinking income base as digital sales do not fill the gap that is widening as CD sales hit the floor.

The future may lie in the direct to fans sales model of a company like Topspin. Check out their case studies here. Basically offer your hardcore fan base, high-quality content at affordable prices, starting low and progressing all the way up to the biggest package. Topspin might just be the solution for musicians but I don’t want to play the prediction game.

For the last ten years the members of Radiohead have been experimenting with rock music. By drawing inspiration from electronic and jazz artists, using different instrumentation to keep things fresh and by basically caring deeply about their recorded output, they kicked off the decade with what is arguably the best rock album of the last ten years, Kid A. That link provides a great overview of how the album was conceived all the way through to its leaking on the Internet. Everything else that you’d want to know about Radiohead can be found here.

I have no best-of-the-decade list as music is too subjective. Any list that I could come up with would be about my musical taste, not the artists on the list. Instead I have concluded that Radiohead, who kept me most intrigued throughout the last ten years by consistently twisting and deconstructing my own ideas of rock music, surely deserves the accolade Band of The Decade. That feels too grandiose though, and inconsistent with what I think they are trying to achieve. I will declare though, that Kid A is my album of the decade.

Fire away.

Runners up: Burial – Untrue, Fever Ray – Fever Ray, D’Angelo – Voodoo

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